Lawsuit against Sam's Club alleging unauthorized search dismissed

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 3, 2013

BECKLEY - A lawsuit against Sam's Club after a man claimed his personal bag was searched without his authorization has been dismissed.

On Oct. 7, a proposed findings and recommendation was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley.

U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Clarke VanDervort stated in the proposed findings and recommendation that the plaintiff does not allege a violation of a federal statute or constitutional provisions.

"Plaintiff complains that his personal bag was improperly searched by a Sam's Club employee and that the Sam's Club manager improperly accused him of stealing items. To the extent plaintiff is alleging a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, the undersigned finds his claim to be without merit...The Fourth Amendment is not applicable 'to search or seizure, even an unreasonable one, effected by a private individual not acting as an agent of the Government or with the participation or knowledge of any government official," VanDervort's findings stated.

VanDervort proposed that the district court deny the plaintiff's application to proceed in Forma Pauperis, dismiss his complaint and remove the matter from the court's docket.

In District Judge Irene C. Berger's memorandum opinion and order, which was filed on Nov. 25, she upheld VanDervort's findings.

Scott Dewees claimed on May 22, 2011, May 27, 2011, and June 3, 2011, his personal bag was searched without his consent while he was visiting the Sam's Club in Beckley, according to a complaint filed Nov. 7, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley.

Dewees claimed the manager also approached him on May 22, 2011, and accused him of stealing merchandise and stated that three employees had seen him place the items in his bag.

The accusations were made while the store was crowded and while Dewees was shopping in one of the store's aisles, according to the suit.

Dewees claimed when he was leaving the store on June 3, 2011, a salesperson uttered a "derogatory, sexually-oriented comment" at him.

Dewees was seeking monetary damages in the amount of $1 million and for the civil rights and human rights violations to cease. He was representing himself.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Beckley case number: 5:11-cv-0761

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